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date: 01 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The collected letters of Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, Lillian Smith, and Zora Neale Hurston reveal that these southern modernists were keenly aware of the ways in which letters could be used—if not immediately, then at least eventually—to position their work within the cultural currents of their time. Through their letters, these writers stage-managed their careers, making it possible for descendants and contemporary readers to ponder their interactions with agents and publishers, their alliances with other writers, their reflections on the region that fueled their work, and their desire—expressed ardently on the part of each—to be read and judged as artists who pursued their own visions. Each writer used the letter as a means of self-performance and as a way to maintain a shaping voice in the discourse of their critical reputations.

Keywords: letters, autobiography, critical reputation, southern women writers, Flannery O'Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, Lillian Smith, Zora Neale Hurston

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